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Friday, August 8, 2008

Rock the Desert

So I have this awesome husband who is willing to babysit 4 kids so I can take a two day road trip out to Midland with a girlfriend to hang out and listen to awesome music. We arrived this afternoon, got our canopy and chairs set up. Me setting up a tent is always awesome! The early bands were pretty lame. It did cross my mind many times, "We are so much better than them." As the sun went down, the bigger bands played. Family Force Five was fun. They screamed a lot and threw their guitars around, jumped, ran, and head-banged. I was exhausted just watching. But I did enjoy the show, even if it did not lead me into worship.

Now for the good part. Newsboys closed out the evening with an awesome, amazing, incredible, super, wow concert. I am not a huge Newsboys fan in general, however I was really impressed by the lead singer Peter at a worship conference several years ago when I heard him speak about his heart for worship and songwriting. They are not a band that I go out and buy their cds, so I was really surprised by the show tonight.

Newsboys hit the stage ready to rock. The drummer wailed on the drums all night - unbelievable. The keyboard player had 2 keyboards, a synthesizer, and two computers. The first several songs were high energy, hard rocking songs. Then they shifted into worship music. I absolutely loved their set. They did "Blessed by your name and ended with the bridge, "You give and take away." The bass player keep a strong driving bass while the drummer shifted his beat to a tribal feel and they leaped into "He Reigns." Now these happen to be two of my favorite worship songs of all time because of some intimate worship experiences that have occurred while singing these songs.

The first time I ever heard "Blessed Be Your Name" was my first week back in church after a miscarriage several years ago. When we got to that bridge, "You give and take away," I lost it. I could not even compose myself enough to walk out of church. Shawn held me and friends gathered around and laid hands on me and prayed over me as I wept. It was such an intimate moment of worship as God showed me that he was absolutely worthy of my worship, my praise, and my trust, even when he made no sense at all. So every time that I sing that song, I am immediately lifted back into God's presence where he reminds me of his great love for me.

Then to follow it with "He Reigns"! Oh My Gosh!!!! This is one of the other most intimate worship experiences I have taken part in. I was at Saddleback's worship conference and Newsboys was leading worship. We came to the end of He Reigns and continued singing for over 10 minutes after the Newsboys had left the stage. I was surrounded by thousands of musicians lifting up worship to their God. It was a moment that I will not ever forget.

So pairing the two songs together really did pull me right into worship. Time stood still, the people around me disappeared, and their was only an audience of One. The rest of the concert was also fabulous. Peter read the Isaiah passage about mounting up on the wings of eagles as a lead in to a song I had not heard, "Stay Strong." Beautiful! God's Word poured over his people was intimate and precious.

So then the Newsboys changed course and moved back into fun - some relief from the intensiveness of the moment. They did a walk down memory lane and sang pieces of all the old stuff. They did Shine, Breakfast, and Amazing Love. To close out the concert, Peter sat down at his own drum set and joined the drummer for a rockin' duet. I thought long and hard about waking up my drummer friends so they could listen in, but decided against it. The last song of the night was "I am free."

Wow - what a concert experience. Words simply cannot captivate the power and strength of God's presence tonight. I cannot express the depth and complexity of the concert and the finesse of the band in leading us into God's presence. I was blessed to be here tonight. The only thing to make it better would be all of you, my friends, standing beside me - voices and hands raised as one as we worship the King of all Kings.

raindrops are fallin' on my head

This morning, the house is totally silent except for the dripping of the coffee pot. (Thank you God for caffeine for those of us who apparently never sleep!) When I woke up, I walked through the house looking at my sleeping children. James's legs are hanging off the end of the couch. Grace is curled in a ball on top of her comforter (she hates making up her bed). Katie wandered into my bed during the night is hogging my side of the bed. - Which would be why I am up early - Abby is upside down in the middle with her feet across Katie's face. I am reminded that I am so blessed with beautiful children. God has been really good to me.

The other sound that is breaking up the stillness of the morning is the sound of rain hitting the roof and dripping from the eaves. I love to listen to rain on the roof. When I was a little girl, I would go visit my grandparents and listen to rain on the tin roof. There is nothing else quite as relaxing and soothing to me. I used to love to sit on the porch and watch the rain dripping off the roof and making puddles in the yard. I really loved dancing in the rain and splashing in the puddles.

Last night (early this morning - about 1:30 - actually) I fell in to bed exhausted and discouraged. I woke up before 6 and could not go back to sleep and I was tired and whiny. But then I began to listen and heard the rain. It was great to wake up and hear the rain falling. I love rain anyway, but especially since the other day when God got me up to enjoy the storm with Him. (See "worship in the dark" blog) Rain has started to be a sign for me of God's promise of His presence for His people. When I hear rain, I remember God's promise pour out His Spirit on His people. Very specifically, today, in these quiet early morning hours, I absolutely feel God pouring out His presence on me.

Who wants to DANCE with me in the rain?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Small beginnings

Today in my quiet time, I found a verse that I have never seen before. Ever! Zechariah 4 :10, "Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin." I read that out loud like 4 times in a row. Small beginnings - that pretty much sums up most of my life. I often worry and fret about making my life count. Could I not do bigger, better, and more? Instead, I tend to make small contributions to the world. Sometimes I wonder if God is disappointed by that, so I was excited when I found this verse that says God rejoices to see the work begin.

What a great verse for a church plant!

Gonna get me some new clothes!

In recent years, shopping has lost its appeal for me. There's just something about going to try on clothes with 4 kids that's not so much fun. Even when I have the opportunity to go alone, it's always a fast mission to try to hurry up and get in and get out. Then there's the size thing. Men's clothing is sold in measurements. A 34 inch waist is a 34 inch waist. Women's clothing is random. Sometimes I wear a 14, or a 16, or an 18, or a Large, or a medium, or an extra large. So trying on clothes is a royal pain. Incorporate into that equation the whole I used to be skinny thing. I have found that there are no clothes that will remove 50 pounds. And dressing room mirrors are 3-sided, so you can't even fake being skinny by only looking at one side of you at a time like you do at home. Anyway, clothes shopping is definitely not something I look forward to at all and generally try to avoid.

Now where am I going with this? Yesterday I was reading Zechariah chapter 3. This chapter tells the story of the high priest Jeshua standing before the angel of the Lord. His clothes are filthy so the angel gives him fine new clothes and a new turban. vs. 4 "So the angel said to the others standing there, "Take off his filthy clothes." And turning to Jeshua he said, "See, I have taken away your sins, and now I am giving you these fine new clothes." I just started thinking about how beautiful it will be to have all my sins removed someday, to no longer struggle with temptation, to no longer have to fight the darkness that is within me, and to be able to shine with righteousness. I'm looking forward to those "new clothes."

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A blast from the past

Being on facebook has really triggered some old memories. As I have reconnected with friends from elementary school, I have been thinking more about my childhood than I have in many, many, many years. Last night I sat down at the piano and was messing around and recalled the very first song that I ever wrote. I had not thought about it in years and cannot find it anywhere.

The summer that I was 16, I had the incredible opportunity to spend the summer in Russellville, Arkansas, at a music camp for gifted musicians. Not being in band, it was the first time that I had really been involved deeply with other musicians. There were several benchmark moments in my life that summer at camp. But last night I was remembering a friend who could see straight through my facade and taught me what a friend really was.

Douglas was an incredible trumpet player from somewhere in south Arkansas. We immediately connected as musicians, probably the first time that I had ever experienced that weird chemistry thing that musicians have together. We were thick as thieves, very instantly best friends. We were absolutely inseparable for the entire summer at camp. He was my first African-American friend, which in Arkansas was a big deal at the time. He was a hands-on lesson that the ethnicity of friends is not important. Douglas was the first person that I ever met who had an extraordinary spirit of discernment and was not afraid to tell it like it was. I was doing a great job at that time in my life of pretending to be a follower of Christ.  He very literally one day sat me down and said something along the lines of "You are the biggest hypocrite I have ever seen in my entire life." He was right of course, since I had never even made a decision to follow Christ and was just being fake. He was refreshing and real.

Our big project at that camp was writing and performing a song for a panel of judges. I guess it was American idol before there was such a thing. The top three songs were then performed in front of a live audience on the final night of camp. I wrote my first song, based out of Ps. 46 and Is. 43. "God is our refuge and strength, therefore we will never fear. Even if the earth shakes and the mountains fall into the sea. Do not be afraid, for I have called you by your name and you are mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up, the flames will not consume you. For I am he Lord, you God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior." (Not the lyrics to the song, these are the verses the song was based on, since I cannot find the song, I cannot remember how it went.) Last night God was using these verses to remind me about who He is and what kind of stuff He is capable of doing - but that is a blog for another day.

Because I am a big chicken, Douglas helped me write out a trumpet accompaniment for my song so that he could stand in front of the judges with me - so I didn't have to be alone. We won the contest and performed our song in that huge auditorium on the closing night. It was one of the greatest highlights of my life.

Douglas and I kept in touch for awhile, but I gradually lost touch with him as I grew up and went away to college and for a time pursued other interests besides music. However, that summer I learned the value of a friend. A friend is somebody who stands next to you when you are too scared to stand alone. A friend is someone who knows your faults, confronts you with them, and loves you anyway.

I appreciated God reminding me of these things last night. And I am deeply blessed with good friends. I am glad that Douglas was only the beginning.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

I just gotta brag about God

Today Shawn had the opportunity to speak at First Baptist Whitesboro. Going around doing fundraising is definitely not my favorite. We have had some pretty varied responses from churches. So, I didn't know what to expect, but was absolutely amazed at what I found. The first service was contemporary - sort of a Hillsong flavor. Even though I prefer a more alternative sound, I love it when God moves in a service and God was moving today. The second service was pretty traditional - can you say organ? but God was there, too. Any music is beautiful and meaningful when God's Spirit is moving in a service.

Shawn did his spill about how to be involved in church planting. When he was finished the response was overwhelming! People were waiting in line to share their business cards with us. We were swamped with people all talking at the same time, "I do .............(whatever)........can you use me? How can we help at the block party? Do you need help at your services? I feel called to missions - can you use me? I feel led to support you, what's the address? Can I write you a check right now?" Then there's my personal favorite, "I don't work right now, but we are having a cow butchered and would love to share a tithe portion for your family to have meat." Tithing a cow - now we're talking about using the resources God gave you!!!!!

I don't know why I am surprised when God again shows His provision for us, but I am. I am so humbled that God is using us and using his community of believers to richly and abundantly meet our needs. I loved to see this church that was outwardly focused and anxious and ready to support mission work. Today they actually had 2 mission teams gone to other parts of the world. I was so impressed by their heart and desire to be on mission for Christ.

I am praying that God will richly bless this church that is all about loving others and reaching the world. I was honored to have the opportunity to spend time with them today.